Cubs Top Draft Pick Matt Shaw Aims to ‘Fail with Best of Them’

The Cubs used their first draft pick on former Maryland infielder Matt Shaw, the Big 10 Player of the Year in 2023 and Cape Cod League MVP last summer. He’s got massive power, as you can see below in the video of a 507-foot homer he hit against Iowa, and he’s brimming with grounded confidence.

“I wanted to be at a team that I thought would move me up,” Shaw said shortly after being drafted, “and give me the opportunity to kind of fail early and learn, to kind of get my footing through playing against really good competition. Moving up to Double-A, moving up to the majors.

“For me, the Cubs, I think, will do a good job with that. And that’s really exciting to me.”

It’s said all the time that baseball is a game of failure and Shaw seems to have really embraced that concept in a very healthy manner. He spoke with the media about his plans when he made his first trip to Wrigley Field on Monday.

“As much as I wish that was my decision, my internal timetable is to go fail with the best of them as soon as you can,” Shaw said.

He went on to provide a good deal more context for his views, and it all makes a lot of sense when you look at it this way.

“Playing in the big leagues, there’s so much failure that there’s a lot of pressure on the player,” Shaw explained. “Or you look at it as ‘There’s so much failure that everybody is failing.’ Mike Trout is failing. Shohei Ohtani is failing. There’s really not as much pressure as you go up. You know, in college people hit .350 and .400 and that’s normal.

“In the big leagues, people hit .250 and .300 and that’s really good. For me, obviously, there’s a lot of different pressures that I don’t understand yet when it comes to the fans, the community, and everything that I’ll eventually learn. But when it comes to baseball itself, people are failing a lot more in the big leagues than they are in college so for me it’s a great opportunity to go and learn and fail and see what you can make of it.”

The Cubs’ top pick sounds mature beyond his 21 years — he won’t turn 22 until November — but it’s important to remember that he’s still about a year younger than the average player at High-A. There are some pretty solid middle infielders in South Bend as well, so starting out at Low-A Myrtle Beach with players of the same age might be the plan.

That said, Shaw should have a more polished skillset than a lot of Carolina League players and could easily find himself in Northern Indiana by the end of the season if he’s failing the right way. The Cubs haven’t been shy about promoting prospects rapidly if the situation warrants it, and VP of scouting Dan Kantrovitz acknowledged Shaw is the type of player who could make that happen.

“He’s got all the tools to move quick,” Kantrovitz said. “But at the same time, you want to be careful to kind of put those expectations on him right out of the chute.”

Fail on, young man, fail on.

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